Virtue signaling has a bit of a bad rap, and deservedly so. If you’ve seen someone suggest online that their latest meaningless purchase is saving the environment, then you’ve seen some classic virtue signaling. For example, “I’m taking a stand against climate change with this sustainable oat milk latte.” Who doesn’t love an artisan blend of minimal effort with maximum self-congratulation?
Can virtue signaling be obnoxious? Definitely. Can you avoid doing it in your real estate business? Sure, but you’ll probably make less money.
Shallow and moralistic self promotion is everywhere. If I’m honest with myself, I have done my fair share of it, and it’s not always a bad thing. Though you may not be single-handedly saving the world with your social media post, you may be adding your voice to a beneficial movement that can make a small but positive difference.
It’s not just people who wear social awareness as a fashion accessory; corporations do it too, all the time. Whether you think this is obnoxious or not, the vast majority of people take virtue signaling very seriously. Forbes Magazine reports that “almost 90% of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues they do… 76% of consumers say they won’t do business with companies that treat the environment, employees, or the community in which they operate poorly.”
Is virtue signaling bad or good? Feel free to consider that question all you want, but while you’re doing so, remember that virtue signaling is huge business; if 76% of consumers avoid companies with values they don’t like, you absolutely have to understand virtue signaling if you’re in business with the public.
You’re probably on the edge of your seat wondering “But how does any of this relate to real estate?” If so, this paragraph will absolutely thrill you. People want to generally feel comfortable and aligned with their real estate agent, and are searching for signs that an agent is trustworthy before they commit to working with them. As an agent, if you have specific skills that involve some sort of virtue signaling, this can be extremely beneficial for getting clients. For example, if you have any training or designations in green real estate, whether or not your clients are looking for a green home, this may make your clients feel drawn to your brand and more comfortable with your values. If you have a number of designations or certifications in selling luxury real estate, certain clients may feel drawn to you.
Regardless of what your values are, it’s important to understand your market and yourself, and carefully curate an online image based on whom you’re trying to attract as a client. Anything specific that involves training or a certification can set you apart from other agents, and can make a client decide to reach out to you.
Fortune Business Insights projects that the global green technology market will grow from $16.5 billion in 2023 to $61.92 billion in the next seven years. This is a massive increase, and suggests that aligning yourself with green real estate trends and technologies may significantly expand your business and your brand; it might be good to establish yourself early on in this field. If you’re a new agent, becoming fluent in green real estate or getting a green real estate professional designation is a great way to connect with new clients, since it’s something that makes you stand out and may put you in a positive light. Likewise, if you live in Beverly Hills, you’ll likely want to get certified in selling luxury real estate, and if you work in an area near a military base, you may want to get training in the intricacies of VA loans and VA appraisals.
Virtue signaling can be beneficial, annoying, inspiring, tone deaf, and extremely profitable. Like most things, it’s complicated, but if you learn about your market, and about yourself and your values, you can create a personal brand that is authentic to who you are, and also connects with the market you’re in so that people feel like they understand your values instinctively and can trust you.
If you want to learn about training and certifications you can get online that will help you specialize and set your brand apart, check out these online training courses:
Anatomy of a Green Home
Anatomy of a Green Home: Oregon CE
Earth Advantage Broker Accreditation: Oregon
Karp, Ethan, Behind All the ESG Virtue Signaling, There’s A Real Opportunity for Manufacturers, Forbes Magazine, 3/31/23 https://www.forbes.com/sites/ethankarp/2023/03/31/behind-all-the-esg-virtue-signaling-theres-a-real-opportunity-for-manufacturers/?sh=372f1ce35033
Fortune Business Insights, April, 2023, https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/green-technology-and-sustainability-market-102221, accessed 8/8/23